The Grapevine

The WSTA's views, distilled.
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International Women's Day

It’s International Women’s Day and with so many talented women working in the wine and spirit trade we have a lot to celebrate.

We’ve got botanical wizards including Joanne Moore crafting gins like Bloom for Quintessential Brands, pioneering Kathy Caton distilling and championing Brighton Gin and Alex Robson who is the driving force behind the King of Soho Gin. But it’s not just Mother’s Ruin which is winning thanks to these creative chemists. Kristeen Campbell has ensured that Scotch gets in touch with its feminine side as master blender of the Famous Grouse family. Another legend in the industry is Joy Spence who has been making rum for the Appleton Estate for over twenty years. She became the first woman to hold the position of master blender in the spirits industry and is still packing a punch.

But we can’t stop there… the female talent amongst the English wine industry is bountiful. There is quite a list *intake of breathe* - Sam Linter MD and head winemaker at Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex, Victoria Ash wine maker at Hush Heath Estate in Kent, Cherie Spriggs head wine maker at Nyetimber Vineyard in West Sussex, Corinne Seeley, head wine maker at Exton Park Vineyard in Hampshire, Emma Rice, head winemaker at Hattingley Valley and not forgetting Tamara Roberts CEO of Ridgeview Wine Estate in West Sussex,  Rebecca Furleigh joint owner of the Furleigh Estate in Dorset and Sarah Driver who jointly owns Rathfinny Wine Estate in the South Downs of Sussex….. *and exhale*. 

However the oestrogen levels noticeably drop when you look to the very top of the larger companies. In board rooms across the country we are all too often met with faces of gentlemen of a certain age. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against gentlemen of a certain age, I’m married to one! That is not to say that sisters aren’t doing it for themselves very successfully in business, but the corps are still predominantly run by men. A lot of the boardrooms remain full of testosterone and women continue to fight for a seat round the table. At the WSTA we aren’t exempt from the issue. At the beginning of last year we had three women on the board, but this was short lived. Diana Hunter left after stepping down from her post at Conviviality and next to leave the WSTA board was Kari Daniels from Tesco, whose brilliant leadership skills meant she was promoted to chief executive of Tesco Ireland. The WSTA currently has one woman with a seat at its board table, Tamara Roberts, who was recently named Sussex Business Woman of the Year. We are set to announce another one soon.  Where are the others you might ask? Trust me we want more and will find more, but it’s a tougher proposition as the pool of senior women to pick from is just not there….yet.   

We know there are plenty of businesses striving to promote and support diversity at work. For example, Treasury Wine Estates has established a TWEforShe program to encourage gender diversity and workplace inclusion.

Many of our retailer members are also running similar schemes which support women who are trailblazers in the industry. 

But we can always do more. On International Women’s Day let’s take a moment to reflect and ask ourselves is the wine and spirit industry doing enough to create an environment where women have the confidence and are encouraged to reach for the top? There are no excuses the talent is there, so let’s ensure that our trade is paving the way for a new wave of women CEO’s.

PS if there is WSTA member with a female leader who we have missed out in consideration for a place on the board please make yourselves known.

By Lucy Panton 

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Taittinger – We Dig it!

A historic event took place last week in the world of English wine. Taittinger became the first Champagne House to plant vines in UK soil and as you would expect, the launch was carried out in style.

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Christina McKelvie, MSP on Scotland’s gin industry

The WSTA recently hosted a reception in the heart of Edinburgh at the Scottish Parliament. Kindly sponsored by Christina McKelvie, MSP, the event was a unique experience to learn about Scotland’s gin industry. Representing the Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse constituency, Christina gives her thoughts on the industry’s contribution.

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Christmas Spice and All Things Nice.

We are delighted to have enjoyed the company of 40 MP’s and Peers, including George Eustice MP, Angus MacNeil MP, Sharon Hodgson MP and Baroness Burt.

And we are proud to say that this annual Christmas drinks is becoming a premium date in the calendar at Westminster, offering a great chance to discuss industry issues in a convivial setting.




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England scored a shock win over Australia in a battle of the white wines led by former England rugby ace and wine buff Andrew Sheridan.

However, The Wine and Spirit Trade Association England v Australia 'wine off' ended in fans giving an overall victory to Australia when the two nations went head to head in a blind tasting of sparkling, white and red.

In a tight run contest, three of Australia’s bestselling wines were pitted against three wines from the award winning Bolney Wine Estate. Australia pushed their way over the try line with their red and sparkling, but there was a runaway win for Bolney in the white wine category for its Bacchus.

Much like their status on the rugby field, Australian wines are clearly still global heavyweights, but this taste test shows that the English are beginning to put up a pretty good fight.

When it comes to a price match the clear winners in this contest are the Australian wines. English wine producers believe the latest government commitments to support English vineyards could make the price of English wine more palatable in the future.


Sheridan, 35, who hung up his boots last year after sustaining a neck injury, said: 

"The Australian wines come out on top for value, and in this blind tasting snuck over the line to score in the red and sparkling categories.


“The Aussies know how to make a very drinkable, reasonably priced wine which will be accepted at anyone's World Cup party. But there is no doubt that the English underdogs are snapping at Australia's heels in the wine market.


“Overall it was an evenly matched contest with each side showing different strengths and weaknesses as expected from very different climates.


“In the Australian camp, we didn't come across a bad wine and like their rugby players the wines were consistently very good. But we shouldn't under estimate English wine. They have the potential to surprise everyone and all it will take is a burst of sheer class to come out on top."

Sheridan has shown his strength on the pitch, but is now pouring his passion and drive into the wine trade. The burly former prop lives in the south of France with his wife and five year-old daughter where he is immersing himself into the world of wine.


Not only is he heaping on the wine qualifications - having already passed his WSET level 2 and 3 and is midway through his diploma for level 4 - he is also taking a hands on approach to learning about vino. Sheridan said:

"This harvest, I volunteered at the Bandol wines vineyard in Castell-Reynoard.

"I want to learn about this industry from all sides. Hand picking the grapes was hard work. I didn't come out of the vines as battered as I was from the rugby pitch, but it was certainly back breaking work."

Sheridan used his wine tasting expertise to judge three Sussex wines from the Bolney Wine Estate against Treasury Wine Estate's Australian Wolf Blass and Lindemans.

Four English fans and four Australian joined Andrew in marking their winners in three competing categories. The wines were then individually marked with points awarded for appearance, aroma, body, taste and finish. Sheridan said:

"The surprising victory came in the shape of Bolney's Bacchus which came top with both English and Aussie fans.


“The Australian wines were consistently good and very drinkable.  But what seemed to unite both sides and what impressed me, was how aromatic and sophisticated the English white wine was.

“It is an exciting time for English wines. They are showing that the cooler climate wines can be complex and compete with their more established New World cousins."


The convincing win for Bacchus over the popular Chardonnay, Lindemans Bin 65 2014 shows why English wine is filling up its trophy cabinet.


In the 2007 Decanter awards English wine didn't achieve a single win - in contrast to this year when they were awarded over 100 medals.


The red wine taste test showed the Australian, Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon ahead of the charge when pitted against Bolney's Pinot Noir. Sheridan added:


"The Wolf Blass was packed with very obvious black fruit flavours, but what I found interesting was it was not too heavy. At 13.5 % abv, there was less alcohol than you might expect from a punchy Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.


“In comparison the English offering, Bolney's Pinot Noir, had strong red fruit aromas, but not the same concentration of flavours as its Australian competitor. The English red was impressive for a cool climate wine and may well suit drinkers after a lighter red wine."


Finally the sparkling category put the Wolf Blass Yellow Label sparkling up against Bolney's Blanc de Blanc 2010, where fans put the Australian fizz in front. Sheridan said:


"I have to say I found the English sparkling had the best texture and the longer finish. It was refreshing and citrusy, but perhaps a little high on the acidity front. Australia's fizz had more weight but for me, not as much finesse when it came to texture."

Australia is known for its more favourable grape growing conditions, but English wine is fast becoming a real competitor in the global wine market. 

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